The T‑Band has a long history, extending back to 1971 when the Federal Communications Commission issued a final ruling allocating the spectrum between 470-512 MHz to public safety, industry and broadcasters. The FCC recognized the congested nature of existing land-mobile spectrum resources and identified the T-Band spectrum for sharing among broadcasters, industry and public safety. To date, the T‑Band continues to provide access to reliable and interoperable land-mobile radio (LMR) in America’s metropolitan areas.
Some have argued that LMR is becoming obsolete as voice-over-LTE and other digital communication solutions replace the need for existing LMR communications. However, these products meet mission-critical benchmarks set by the cellular industry, not public safety. Data-powered cellphones do not have the same power output as radios or radio signals. Therefore, while data is an important part of modern response, it cannot replace hardened systems that have been built out over decades.
The T‑Band is present in 11 markets: Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. All incumbents on the T-Band are affected by the mandated auction. It will cost over $5.9 billion to relocate public-safety users in these markets, and many of them do not have access to spectrum alternatives.
The T‑Band auction must be repealed to save communities from having to shoulder the immense bill of relocating emergency responders and to ensure continued interoperability in America’s largest cities.
In the first month of the new Congress, Representative Eliot Engel (D‑N.Y.) introduced the Don’t Break Up the T‑Band Act of 2019 (H.R. 451). The bipartisan bill, if it becomes law, will repeal the mandatory public-safety relocation and the FCC auction of the T‑Band (470-512 MHz), scheduled to start in February 2021. As the mandated auction nears, the need for action is more critical than ever.
In the Senate, the main champion of a companion bill has been Senator Ed Markey (D‑Mass.). Senator Markey sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which like the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House, has jurisdiction over the bill. The main power players in the Senate will be Texan Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, whose state sees significant industrial use of the T‑Band spectrum. A Senate companion bill has not yet been introduced.
Congress is working hard to ensure the auction mandate is repealed; you can help by making your representatives aware of the problem and asking them to support Rep. Engel’s bill. IAFC members from all areas of the U.S. should reach out to their members of Congress and encourage them to support the bill in the House or consider becoming a cosponsor in the Senate.